Why Interoperability Matters to IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the fastest growing areas in data communications. Gartner estimates the number of devices deployed to grow to 20.8 Billion by 2020 with an economic impact of 3 billion dollars in sales. This is an increase of roughly 14 billion devices over the next four years, doubling the amount of devices on the Internet today. Use cases for connecting appliances and systems to each other and the Internet are growing, driving this increase in devices. Users for IoT can be broken up into categories of Consumer, Enterprise, or Industrial, which each have different value propositions. At the core of this IoT revolution is the idea of connecting devices to make a task easier. This article will focus on the need for Interoperability on the consumer space since its a large growth area for IoT, estimating to grow from 4 billion devices today to 13 billion devices by 2020.

Consumers want to be able to connect to things to allow them to automate everyday tasks. Consumer IoT companies market to the users who have internet-connected homes and lives. Use cases vary from televisions streaming your favorite show, a light bulb indicating it needs to be replaced, or controlling the temperature of your pool from your phone. Some devices are purchased directly by the consumer such as the TV or light bulb. Others are provided by a service provider or system manufacturer, for example the pool company will provide the user the devices to connect the pool monitor system to the Internet instead of having the user purchase the equipment themselves. This leads to a wide variety of networked things working together to communicate to the Internet for the benefit of the user.

The diversity of things on the network means that Interoperability, the ability for devices or a system to communicate effectively, is vital to the success of IoT. Networked devices need to work harmoniously for a good user experience, which includes device setup and securing the devices. Users don’t want to purchase a device with networked features only to discover during setup that these features don’t work due to incompatibility with another previously purchased device. Interoperability of the network devices is key to harnessing the many benefits of IoT.

To illustrate the need for interoperability we are going to use the example of streaming content to a television. The application provided by a content provider to connect to the cloud needs to work with the TV. In some cases the application doesn’t run directly on the TV but runs on a different device that is connected to the TV – a DVR or Chromecast, for example. The TV needs to be able to connect the home network so that it can find the content that the user wants to stream.

Written by: 

Timothy Winters, Senior Executive, Software and IP Networking 
University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory

Marion Dillon, Technical Manager of Home Networking and IoT Technologies
University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory